RIYADH: GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN
Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of the organizing committee of International Space and Aeronautics Technology Conference, announced Wednesday night the formation of an Asian Association of Space Explorers (AASE). "The AASE will bring together Asian astronauts and cosmonauts on one platform and provide strategic guidance to them as it relates to the promotion of space sciences, research and space exploration," Prince Sultan said.
“Comprising predominantly Asian space explorers, the AASE will play an important role in designing common policies and programs in the field of space exploration,” said Prince Sultan, who is also the chief of the Supreme Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA). He was speaking during the concluding ceremony of the 25th Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers, organized together with the Saudi International Space and Aeronautics Technology Conference in Riyadh.
The concluding ceremony at the local Ritz-Carlton Hotel was attended by a large number of Saudi officials, foreign diplomats including several ambassadors and about 95 space explorers from around the world. Prominent guests present on the occasion included Alauddin Alaskary, deputy foreign minister for protocol affairs; ASE President Dumitru-Dorin Prunario; Charlie Duke, an Apollo 16 astronaut, who spent three days on the moon; and several internationally renowned space explorers like Taylor G. Wang and Peter Jeffrey Wisoff.
A number of space explorers and scientists spoke on this occasion and appreciated the role of Prince Sultan in organizing the ASE Planetary Congress in Riyadh. Several paintings and plaques were presented to Prince Sultan by some international explorers as a token for the prince’s contributions to space science and exploration.
Names of some new ASE members were also announced on this occasion by ASE chief Prunario, who also thanked Prince Sultan for hosting the event in the Saudi capital. Membership in ASE is open to individuals who have completed at least one orbit of the Earth in a spacecraft.
ASE is represented by over 375 space fliers from 35 different countries: Saudi Arabia, the United States, Afghanistan, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.
Asked about the mandate of AASE, Prince Sultan said that “Saudi Arabia will host the AASE for three years before it takes shape and start working in a full-fledged manner.” The AASE will routinely provide feedback, input and guidance on development strategies and their implementation as well as on other critical issues related to the works being done in the field of space exploration especially in Asia. Prince Sultan, who will be personally involved in AASE, said that “all Asian astronauts and cosmonauts will be the members of the new Asian chapter and it will map out its future plans and policies shortly.”
“We also offered to work in unison with ASE to undertake an ambitious education project in which the ASE will work to disseminate information about space and space science among the students and researchers of the Kingdom,” he added. The prince said the specifics of this educational project are being worked out at the moment.
With respect to education, ASE in fact seeks to stimulate interest in science and mathematics and inspire students to learn about space science or to choose a career in this fascinating stream of science. Hence, ASE provides opportunities for its members to share their knowledge and experiences with the general public, and in particular with tomorrow’s leaders — the world’s children. This will be the theme of the educational program to be launched by the ASE in Saudi Arabia.
On the national level, Prince Sultan said the Kingdom was working on plans to boost its capabilities in the domain of space science and exploration. To this end, Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al-Suwaiyel, president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) noted that the national policy for science and technology of Saudi Arabia has defined 11 programs for localization and development of strategic technologies that are essential for the Kingdom’s future development. The space and aeronautics program is one of them, he added.
The program is developed by a Space Program Management Office (SPMO) at KACST, along with a group of stakeholders consisting of critical engineering departments in the Kingdom’s universities, government units related to aviation and aeronautics and members of the Kingdom’s industrial base, he added.
“The vision of KACST, along with its strategic stakeholders, is to make Saudi Arabia a regional leader in space and aeronautical activities,” he noted. In the current global context of the space and aeronautical sector, the Kingdom is well poised to realize this vision, he added.
“The KACST Space Research Institute (SRI) is composed of an array of centers dedicated to satellite technologies, including monitoring, communications and data processing,” said a book distributed by KACST on this occasion. In addition, there are centers dedicated to material testing for aeronautical applications, and numerical modeling and simulation, including computational fluid dynamics and finite element modeling.
“Importantly, KACST currently supports a generation of Saudi satellites,” said the book, while giving details of the Kingdom’s programs and policies in this field.
Speaking on this occasion, Peter Jeffrey Wisoff, an American astronaut, said the US and Saudi Arabia are working on the International Space Station project. He recalled his trip to space and said that he was currently working in California studying the conditions around the planet. Selected by NASA in January 1990, Wisoff became an astronaut in July 1991. He is qualified for assignment as a mission specialist on Space Shuttle flight crews. A veteran of three space flights (STS-57 in 1993, STS-68 in 1994 and STS-81 in 1997), Wisoff has logged over 754 hours in space. Asked about his experiences in space, Wisoff said that he “conducted a five-hour 50-minute spacewalk during which the communications antennas were manually positioned for latching, and various extravehicular activity tools and techniques were evaluated for use on future missions.”
Speaking on his part, Charlie Duke narrated his experience when he landed on the moon. Charlie, who has a lot of personal experiences to share with anyone who is interested in his life adventures, said that if you are interested in the Appollo space program, or simply cannot imagine what it would be like to sit on top of six million pounds of fuel when someone pushes the ‘go’ button, then this may well be. Giving insight into what it was like for his family, particularly his wife Dotty, to live with the dangers that he faced, Charlie said that “it all vanished when I walked on the moon as the 10th man to do so.”
Taylor G. Wang, professor at Vanderbilt University, delivered a talk at King Faisal Specialist Hospital on diabetes yesterday. Wang is working on a new study that examines the prevalence and cure of diabetes, keeping in view the findings from space research. He said space science has always been a fascinating stream of knowledge, in which you discuss to “turn impossible into possible every morning.”